Bulk up this basic pasta with roasted mushrooms

Aside from the absence of spring morels, mushrooms have been only more prominent lately in my kitchen.

Formerly quite the carnivore, my 2-year-old son seems to have renounced a meat-heavy diet for vegetarianism. And as every vegetarian knows, mushrooms make a savory, hearty stand-in for meat, both taste- and texture-wise. They soak up any flavor a cook can devise, ensuring their adaptability to virtually any cuisine or penchant of the palate.

Just saute them in melted butter and sprinkle them with a bit of salt, and my son will eat a good half-pound in a sitting. Because his brother won’t touch them, I often separate the mushrooms from our main dish, depositing the lion’s share on the little guy’s high-chair tray, followed by pasta, rice, cheese, fruit or whatever else is on the menu.

This recipe’s instructions for roasting mushrooms, then mounding them onto classic cacio e pepe is perfect for my purposes. It would be a delectable preparation for those morels or the oyster mushrooms that Food 4 Less in Medford recently has started stocking.

As the Detroit Free press emphasized, use plenty of salt in the pasta-cooking water, a measure that becomes even more critical for a pasta with so few ingredients. Use at least 2 tablespoons salt in the cooking water, an essential part of the sauce for this dish. Pepper and cheese are its primary components, so use at least a tablespoon of freshly ground pepper and good-quality cheese. Pecorino Romano is traditional.

Tribune News Service photo

Cacio e Pepe With Roasted Mushrooms

1 pound maitake (hen-of-the-woods) mushrooms or cremini mushrooms

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon crushed red-pepper flakes, or to taste

1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more for pasta water

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

13 to 16 ounces tagliatelle pasta

8 ounces Parmesan, finely grated

2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

To prepare the mushrooms, preheat oven to 400 F.

Line a sided baking sheet with parchment paper. Break the maitake mushroom bunches in half and arrange in a single layer on baking sheet. If using cremini mushrooms, quarter them. Sprinkle the garlic, red-pepper flakes, salt and 1 tablespoon black pepper over mushrooms.

Roast in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until mushrooms are slightly crispy on edges and cooked through.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.

Finely grate the Parmesan cheese into a large mixing bowl. Add the pepper and butter to bowl.

Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking water. Add cooked pasta to bowl and drizzle with water until sauce reaches your desired thickness.

Top pasta with roasted mushrooms and additional Parmesan cheese. Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted by the Detroit Free Press from www.today.com.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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